Sometime early in May, the United States installed its one millionth solar energy system. Achieving this milestone took the solar industry about 40 years to accomplish. Because of the phenomenal growth of solar power in this country, industry experts predict that it will only take two more years to reach the second million and there are predictions that by the year 2025, there will be one million new installations in the U.S. each year.
The current one million solar installations include about 942,000 residential systems, 57,000 commercial systems, and about 1,500 utility–scale solar installations. Most of the growth has happened during the past 10 years. In fact, in 2007 there were no utility-scale solar plants in the United States at all.
From a jobs and economic standpoint, the solar industry has exploded over the past ten years. In 2006, there were 17,000 solar jobs in the U.S. As of 2015, there were 209,000. The annual level of investments in 2006 was $1.4 billion; last year, the figure was $16.8 billion.
The biggest driver for all of this growth is the plummeting price of solar energy. As has been the case in other high-tech industries, increasing volume has a huge impact on price. There are already many instances in which solar power has been able to be the cheapest option for producing electricity in direct competition with all other sources. A huge new solar project in Dubai has been bid at 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, making it the lowest-priced solar energy ever, and represents a 50% drop in that record in only one year.
Solar power has its critics and its opponents, but there is no question that it is the fastest-growing energy technology in the world.
Photo, posted February 6, 2015, courtesy of Micolo J via Flickr.